Posts Tagged ‘Food Information Regulations’

Mail Online Article – Girl Dies After No Nut Warning on Takeaway Website

Mail Online Article 

I found this article on the Daily Mail’s Online site, published on 17 September 2012, about a girl who died after eating curry from a takeaway which wasn’t labelled as nut-containing. It shows that the changes in the Food Information Regulations (2013) outlined in my last post are needed very much. Have a read, and I’ve added a few personal thoughts below:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2204404/Nut-allergy-girl-killed-mouthful-chicken-curry-local-takeaway-warning-left-menu.html *

*Also, read some of the comments below the article by Mail Online readers. Some of them display good insights into the attitudes of nut allergy sufferers regarding food labelling, and state how nut allergies affect their lives.

Daily Mail

Article Appeared on the Daily Mail’s internet site, Mail Online [Image courtesy of Edmond Wells]

Thoughts

This really does highlight how dangerous nut allergies can be, and how careful sufferers must be every minute of every day. As it stands, there is no legal requirement for takeaways to display allergen information, so there was no knowing that the food was not suitable for someone with a nut allergy.

The Food Standards Agency told me that the situation will change in 2013, when takeaways will be subject to the more stringent allergen rules that we see in restaurants. In short, the curry would have been labelled under the new legislation, warning that the product had been cooked with nut oil and ground almonds. It seems commonsensical that all products containing nuts should have a warning on them, when there are a large number of people with such dangerous nut allergies.

Personal Concerns about Eating Out

Vegetable Curry (Bulk)

I only eat Home-Made Curry to be Sure Nuts Don’t Appear in it [Image courtesy of phdstudent]

I avoid curries, Indian and Chinese food. I know that many nut allergy sufferers enjoy these foods safely, but for me – and this is a personal opinion – I am afraid about accidental nut contamination of food in a kitchen environment where nuts are used so freely elsewhere. I don’t eat out very often, which is again a personal decision, because I haven’t got the control of the allergen that I suffer from.

The only way that I would ‘risk’ eating a curry is if it was home-made and I had the reassurance that nuts were not used to make it. I am also concerned about the use of nut oil in foods, as evident in the Mail Online article. But with nut oil, there is a much larger array of foods that it could appear in – and foods which you might not have even considered as being nut-containing. Although I am obviously aware of the serious nature of my allergy, I do not ‘worry’ about it on a daily basis. But nut oil is the main thing that worries me regularly.

Will the new Food Information Regulations change my attitude about this? I am afraid not. But I cannot reiterate enough how much I feel the Regulation changes are required. Sufferers need to know exactly what is in their food before they eat it. The Mail Online article is certainly proof of that.

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Changes to Food Information Regulations in Wales (2013)

This post outlines the Food Standards Agency in Wales‘s response when I asked them what the 2013 changes to the Food Information Regulations for Wales entail. These changes relate to the information that consumers/purchasers of food are given with regard to allergens, within which nuts are inclusive.

Change #1 – Labelling of ‘Loose’ Foods

The Food Standards Agency’s response indicated that the main change will be the requirement of manufacturers to give labelling on ‘loose’ foods. It said: “This means foods from a take away, deli or coffee shop would all need to have allergen labelling.”

“However the regulations specify that this information can be given verbally, but businesses will have to have the information ready and available in an easily understood format when asked.”

Coffee

Allergens: Coffee Shops must Label Food or Provide Verbal Information from 2013 [Image Courtesy of MrTopf]

I understand this to mean that all packaged or unpackaged food or drink, whether bought in a restaurant or a shop, will have to be labelled unless the seller is able to give a definitive and easy-to-understand list of the allergen information on request.

In essence, nothing will change for the manufacturers who already provide one of these two methods of informing the customer.

But it is a great reassurance that unpackaged food is now subject to such scrutiny, because I would suggest that ‘loose’ food is one of the biggest concerns for allergy sufferers. It is certainly right for allergen information on this unpackaged food to be available just as it is with packaged food, whether this is verbal of via food labelling. It is a definite improvement in my opinion.

Change #2 – Information on Labels

The second main change to the Food Information Regulations in Wales regards how allergen information is written on this food labelling. I have spoken about the existing rules on this topic somewhat extensively in my previous two posts, but what changes are in store from 2013 onwards?

The Food Standard Agency’s reply said: “All allergen information now has to be in the ingredients list, with the allergen in every ingredient highlighted so allergen sufferers know what to look for.”

chocolate bars

Food Packaging: Chocolate Bars, for example, must Adhere to the 2013 Rules [Image Courtesy of david_pics]

“Although labels can still have an allergen box, they can no longer list the allergens within the box; only use it to signpost consumers to the ingredients list. These regulations only cover the labelling of allergens where they have been deliberately added as an ingredient in food, not the cross contamination of allergens in the manufacturing process.”

Therefore, where an allergen is an ingredient used to make the product, manufacturers can no longer state it  in the allergen section of the packaging, but can refer to the ingredients from here. There is no requirement to have an allergen section at all in these cases, but manufacturers must unequivocally state all allergens in their list of ingredients, regardless of whether they provide an allergen box.

But, as I interpret it, the rules regarding ‘accidental’ contamination, from a substance outside of the ingredients, have not changed. This means the May Contain labels that we have become accustomed to with nut presence will not disappear, as manufacturers cannot write these ‘accidental allergens’ in their ingredients lists because they are not exactly that – ingredients. I assume that the possibility of accidental contamination will continue to be listed in the allergen advice boxes on food packaging.

It is worth reiterating that these are the new regulations for Wales. There are changes for other countries also occurring in 2013, and the outline of the English changes can be found here.

I would like to thank the Food Standards Agency in Wales for providing me with the information about the Wales 2013 Food Information Regulations, and also details about May Contain labels as outlined in my last post. 

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